This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






Barb Sorenson, et al.,





Freeborn County Board of Commissioners

and Freeborn County, Minnesota,



Filed September 11, 2001

Reversed and remanded

Lindberg, Judge*


Freeborn County Board of Commissioners




Gregg M. Corwin, Jennifer J. Duchscherere, Gregg M. Corwin & Associates Law Office, P.C., 1660 S. Highway 100, Suite 508E, St. Louis Park, MN 55416 (for relators)


Malcolm P. Terry, Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd., 400 Northtown Financial Plaza, 200 Coon Rapids Boulevard, Coon Rapids, MN 55433 (for respondents)



            Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Hanson, Judge, and Lindberg, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            This appeal is by writ of certiorari to review the decision of respondent Freeborn County Board of Commissioners to deny the administrative appeals of three county employees to have their job grade changed following a re-grading and re-classification of all county positions.  We reverse and remand.


            In January 1997, the Freeborn County Board of Commissioners (County Board) began to conduct a comprehensive review of all county positions and job grades to ensure compliance with the pay-equity requirements of Minn. Stat. §§ 471.991-.999 (1996).  The County Board eventually retained Bjorklund Compensation Consulting (BCC) to complete the project.

            As part of the review, all county employees were asked to complete an 18-page questionnaire detailing their job duties, requirements and responsibilities  Additionally, relators sent one individual to be interviewed by BCC as a representative for the “Account Clerk” position.  Prior to the review, relators held the title of “Account Clerk,” which is the same title they now hold.

Using both the information in the questionnaires and that obtained via interviews, BCC assigned each county job a rating for each of the following factors: (1) know-how, (2) experience, (3) contact with others, (4) independence of action/complexity of duties, (5) effect of errors, (6) type of supervision, (7) scope of supervision, (8) effort, and (9) working conditions.  Each factor was assigned a particular weight and rated by a letter grade.  The higher the letter grade the more significant the factor.

            In September 2000, relators were given the results of the BCC study and their new job descriptions.  The study resulted in a county-wide change to a 24-level grading system.  Each grade level contained 11 incremental salary steps to account for individual job performance and experience.  Under the old grading system, relators’ positions were classified a grade 12; under the new grading system, Account Clerks were a grade 7 but had an increased salary cap.

            On September 7, 2000, the County Board adopted the new BCC classification system and also held that appeals from employees would be handled as prescribed by the county’s Personnel Rules and Regulations.  The board also authorized the hiring of DMG Maximums, Inc. (DMG), a neutral third party, to review employee appeals.

            Relators appealed to DMG and were interviewed by DMG regarding why they felt their positions were incorrectly classified and graded.  Thereafter, DMG submitted a detailed report with its recommendations to the County Board.  The report recommended some changes in certain job classes, but no changes were recommended for the relators’ positions.  The minutes of the December 19, 2000, meeting reflect that the County Board adopted the DMG findings as its final determination and decision with respect to relators’ appeals:

Moved, to approve the Classification Appeal Report as presented and made a part of this agenda packet by reference as the final Board Review of the appeals process. * * * After discussion a vote was taken and the Chair declared the motion approved.

            According to the Freeborn County Personnel Rules and Regulations, once the County Board made a decision, employees had the option of appealing directly to the County Board.  On March 6, 2001, relators appeared before the County Board and presented their individual and collective reasons for appealing the classification results. The County Board minutes of the March 6, 2001, meeting read as follows:

General Public comments included three Freeborn County employees, Diane Shaunce, Doug Miller and Barb Sorenson. They appealed to the Board of Commissioners as a group in the Business Office of the Department of Human Services and individually addressed the Board of Commissioners for a final review of their job classifications.  After discussion, Chairman, Commissioner Mullenbach, advised the group the last Board of Commissioners had reviewed and accepted the final report of DMG-Maximus as the final Board review of the appeals process.


            Relators filed a writ of certiorari to this court on April 4, 2001.  Relators assert that the County Board’s denial of their request to reclassify their positions was arbitrary and capricious because (a) it was not based on substantial evidence; (b) the county failed to make contemporaneous findings in support of its position; and (c) the county failed to evaluate the actual performance of relators.  Relators also assert that the County Board violated the Comparable Worth Statute, Minn. Stat. § 471.993, subds. 1, 2 (2000).


A review on writ of certiorari is limited to an inspection of the record to determine the propriety of the administrative body’s jurisdiction and procedures and, with respect to the merits, to determine whether its decision was arbitrary, oppressive, unreasonable, fraudulent, or unsupported by substantial evidence or applicable law.  Dietz v. Dodge County, 487 N.W.2d 237, 239 (Minn. 1992).  “The reviewing court is not to retry the facts or make credibility determinations.”  Senior v. City of Edina, 547 N.W.2d 411, 416 (Minn. App. 1996) (citing Dokmo v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 11, 459 N.W.2d 671, 674-75 (Minn. 1990)).  The decision will be upheld if the county board “furnished any legal and substantial basis for the action taken.”  Id.

“Substantial evidence” is defined as:

1.   Such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion;


2.   More than a scintilla of evidence;


3.   More than some evidence;


4.   More than any evidence; and


5.   Evidence considered in its entirety.


Cable Communications Bd. v. Nor-West Cable Communications P’ship, 356 N.W.2d 658, 668 (Minn. 1984) (quotation omitted).  “The substantial evidence test requires a reviewing court to evaluate the evidence relied upon by the agency in view of the entire record as submitted.”  Id. (citation omitted). 

If an administrative agency engages in reasoned decisionmaking, this court will affirm, even though it may have reached a different conclusion had it been the factfinder.


Id. at 669 (citation omitted).

The court will intervene, however, where there is a “combination of danger signals which suggest the agency has not taken a “hard look” at the salient problems and the decision lacks articulated standards and reflective findings.”


Id. (quotation omitted).

In this case, the County Board had before it a record of the job reclassification and appeals process performed by BCC and DMG covering a three-year period.  However, the March 6, 2001, minutes do not reflect that the board took a “hard look” at the issues presented by relators in their appeal to the board.  The minutes are also bereft of “articulated standards and reflective findings,” suggesting that the County Board had already made its decision prior to hearing the relators’ appeals.

An entity “need not necessarily prepare formal findings of fact, but it must, at a minimum, have the reasons for its decision recorded or reduced to writing and in more than just a conclusory fashion.”


Hurrle v. City of Sherburne, 594 N.W.2d 246, 249 (Minn. App. 1999) (quoting Honn v. City of Coon Rapids, 313 N.W.2d 409, 416 (Minn. 1981)).  In evaluating the reasons, courts look at the contemporaneous record made by the entity.  Id. (quotation omitted).

We find that the minutes of the County Board lack contemporaneous findings of the reasons for the denial of relators’ appeals.  The minutes reflect only that the County Board heard each relator’s testimony and that there was a “discussion” following the testimony.  There is no record as to what was discussed at the March 6, 2001, meeting.

In White Bear Rod & Gun Club v. City of Hugo, the supreme court found inadequate a listing of “so-called reasons” denying a special-use permit amendment.  388

N.W.2d 739, 742 (Minn. 1986).  The “reasons” provided in White Bear Rod & Gun Club are considerably greater than the County Board’s “[a]fter discussion” reason articulated in its March 6, 2001, minutes.[1]  As in White Bear Rod & Gun Club, “after discussion” reveals “nothing about how the [county board] may have evaluated or used this information” presented by relators on appeal.  Id.

Because the County Board did not specifically articulate the reasons for its denial of relators’ appeals, we reverse and remand the case to the County Board so that it may do so.  We therefore need not address the issue of whether the County Board failed to evaluate relators’ actual performance.

Respondent alleges that relators have raised the issue of violation of the Comparable Worth Statute for the first time on appeal.  As a general rule, appellate courts will not consider issues that were not presented to or decided by the lower tribunal.  See Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) (stating appellate courts will not entertain arguments made for the first time on appeal).  A review of the record does not indicate that relators specifically raised this issue with the County Board and therefore we decline to address it.

Reversed and remanded.

* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] The court articulated these “reasons”:

Item 1, information in this letter [a letter by a council member to the council]; Item 2, the new petition with over 250 names against the Gun Club; Item 3, past court cases; Item 4, information from other governmental agencies; Item 5, the state statutes; Item 6, the Hugo’s Comprehensive Plan; Item 7, all materials submitted at the February 6th, 1985 public hearing; [Item 8,] Hugo City Code Book; and No. 9, the information on file at the Hugo City Hall.

White Bear Rod & Gun Club, 388 N.W.2d at 742 n.3.